Long-time Matthews leaders ready to step away from board

It’s been a long time since the Matthews Board of Commissioners has seen three of its incumbents decide not to seek re-election.

It’s been even longer since the town has seen four new members join the six-member board. That’s why 2013 will be a year for the books, as Matthews Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Bailey, who served nine terms on the board; Commissioner Suzanne Gulley, who served five terms; and Nancy Moore, who served three terms; will give up their seats in December to the town’s new leaders.

Joining them in stepping away will be Commissioner John Urban, who served two terms on the board but fell short in the Nov. 5 election.

But for the three who chose to step out of the limelight on their own terms, they’re proud of the progress they’ve seen over the years and excited to see what’s next.

New chapter, new role

Bailey originally ran for a seat on the Matthews Board of Commissioners 20 years ago in an effort to help improve local government, but it didn’t take long before his passion for the job took off. He also served as chairman of the transportation advisory committee, which was started to study traffic patterns throughout the town.

“Once I got into office, I realized the impact I could have on the growth of the town and the direction that I could participate in,” Bailey said. “It was interesting, and I felt like I could contribute, and it was fun – it’s still fun, and I’ve enjoyed the ride.”

Bailey, who will be sworn in next month as the new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools District 6 representative, said there have been many Matthews projects and policies he’s helped put in place over the past 20 years; 18 in public service. The new town hall, the library, Matthews Station and, more recently, the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews, all are projects Bailey said he’s been proud to see come to fruition.

“I’m extremely proud of the sportsplex. We’ve spent a number of years working on that project. It was a tough, long-term project – a lot of efforts on former Mayor (Lee) Myers to get the funding in place,” Bailey said. “In the long term, it’s going to bring in tourism dollars that will be very much beneficial.”

But it’s the friendships he’s made along the way with town staff and other members of the board Bailey said he will miss the most about the job. Those relationships have been 20-years in the making, something Bailey said he’ll cherish.

“I’ve come to value their opinions, and many have become my friends – I will miss the routine interface with them,” he said.

A lifelong commitment to Matthews

Suzanne Gulley has spent her entire life calling Matthews home, and has worked many years to move the town forward. She helped establish the Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association more than 50 years ago. She started the Matthews Record newspaper, where she worked as a reporter for many years, and has served five years on the Matthews Board of Commissioners. Married to former N.C. Rep. Jim Gulley, the two have spent their life in public service.

“Matthews is my home. It was my father’s home and my grandfather’s home,” Gulley said. “Anything I could do to make it better, I’ve always tried to do.”

Like Bailey, the sportsplex has been an important project to Gulley, who helped envision the project 18 years ago when her granddaughter played soccer. Then, she saw the need for hotels, restaurants and other amenities near a sports complex in town. And after years of hard work, she’s happy now to see the project coming to light.

“I might not ever see it finished, but I got to shovel the first dirt,” Gulley said, adding she’s proud of her involvement in that project.

She’s also proud of Four Mile Creek Greenway, something she calls a much-needed amenity for Matthews residents, which was dedicated last year. But representing and making decisions for Matthews residents has ultimately been the best part for Gulley, who has worked to make decisions based on all sides of an issue, she said.

“The contact with the people and feeling a sense of accomplishment when things turn out well – that’s what it’s about. We’ve worked really hard to make good decisions. Of course, there are some things I would do differently,” Gulley said.

Finding time for family

Nancy Moore has served three terms on the Matthews Board of Commissioners. Starting at the committee level, in 2007, she saw a need for more representation for residents and neighborhoods near Interstate 485. Moore also felt it was the right time in her life and the lives of her two sons for her to take the next step to be more effective in public service.

“I was ready to step it up. I had been asked to run a couple of years prior to that,” Moore said.

Moore comes from a family of public servants, with both her mom and dad serving in elected positions when she was a child. She’s proud of the projects she’s been part of, like the Four Mile Creek Greenway and helping complete the sportsplex. She also helped establish the Special Needs Advisory Committee, working to install handicapped-accessible crosswalks and parking spots in areas around town.

“I know how those projects are used on a daily basis – to have that positive effect on somebody’s life, that’s important to me,” Moore said, adding it’s the small, sometimes unnoticed projects that can mean the most to Matthews residents. “We now have handicapped parking places in Stumptown Park. That may be small in the whole scheme of things, but to that group of people, those projects are really important.”

Now, stepping down, Moore is excited to spend time with her two grown sons and her husband – whom she married while serving on the board – as well as traveling and sitting down for family dinners.

“The best thing about serving on council is the tremendous people I’ve met and the relationships and friendships I’ve developed through that,” Moore said. “I’m hoping that is something that I definitely maintain.”

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